Governors have commended President Muhammadu Buhari for withholding assent to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill.
The Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) and Governor of Ekiti State, Dr Kayode Fayemi, who spoke on behalf of his counterparts, said governors are not fixated on any mode of primary election to choose candidates of political parties.
He said this while responding to questions from State House reporters after meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Tuesday.
Fayemi, who met the President on behalf of his colleagues, said direct primary, indirect primary, and consensus as different modes of producing candidates for major elections have their peculiar challenges.
He dismissed the notion that direct primary has solutions to all the challenges affecting the electoral process in the country.
The governor said “the courage of Mr President” to stand with the people should be commended, stressing that Buhari had “only said be fair to all, let all options apply and what you decide should be determined by your own local and peculiar circumstances.”
He said the governors’ interest and concern was that opportunities should be given for an inclusive process.
Daily Trust reports that the National Assembly had recently passed the amended Electoral Act and transmitted to the President for assent.
But the president had declined assent to the bill, citing the issue of direct primaries and electronic transmission of election results by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as reason.
Asked whether the governors were happy about the development, Fayemi said: “I don’t know what you mean by governors being happy. At least as the governor who has gone through a series of elections, my election to office during my first term was via a direct primary that took place in all the 177 wards in my state. And my election to my second term in office was via an indirect primary. So, I’ve tested both. And I can tell you that it really doesn’t matter to any governor whether you have primaries via direct mode or an indirect mode.
“What is governors’ interest and concern is that opportunities are given for an inclusive process. And I think that is what Mr. President’s letter has brought out. Mr. President has not objected to direct primaries, neither has he endorsed indirect primaries, he has only said, be fair to all, let all options apply and what you decide should be determined by your own local and peculiar circumstances, being mindful of questions of security, finances, and internal democracy.
“So, I think we all should commend the courage of Mr President to stand with the people. And the President, you know, just like me, is not afraid of whatever mode you decide to use. When I chaired the primaries, the historic primaries that brought him in as a presidential candidate, I was the chair of that primaries in 2014. It was an indirect primary.
“But in 2019, when he was coming back, he came back via a direct primary. So, Mr. President has also tested both. And I don’t think it’s somebody to be lectured about the pros and cons of either processes. What is important is to ensure that whatever process you choose in your particular circumstance, still provides a process that is as free as possible. It’s not completely free process, but at least there is something that is called substantial compliance in electoral law. And if it meets substantial compliance.
I think all of us should be happy with that. We shouldn’t really dwell too much on. There’s been this exaggerated expectation that direct primaries is going to provide all answers to whatever electoral challenges that we have faced. And we all know that that is false. Direct primary has its own challenges. Indirect primaries have its own challenges. A consensus approach is also not without challenges, but options should be provided. And whether governors are happy or not, it’s really immaterial to governors whether it’s direct or indirect.”
Fayemi, while speaking on the forthcoming governorship election in his state, said he was only interested in a free, inclusive and fair process as the father of all.